Successful Cleared Job Search – A Checklist

Posted by Patra Frame

Cleared Job Search ChecklistWhether you are just thinking about changing jobs, in transition from the military/federal government, or need a new job now, there are common steps in job search which will help you succeed. This outline of the basics can guide you. As you read it, I hope you recognize most of the steps.  The ClearedJobs.Net blog has lots more information on each as do a wide range of career experts online.

But the question is whether you are actually doing all this. So many of us just jump in without thinking through the job search process and waste a lot of time as a result.

Step 1. Defining Your Next Step

Before you write a resume or tell everyone you know that you need a new job, figure out what you really want to do next and where. This can be a tough thought exercise for many. We limit ourselves by thinking only of linear progression. Start with a blank sheet and consider everything you would like to do in your next job. Use that to write your own job description. Or use it to search among possible jobs on ClearedJobs.Net and Google – what comes up if you put in some of the key skills you want to use?

  • What interests you among those results?
  • Do you meet the requirements for the jobs you find most interesting?
  • If not, what can you do to get there?
  • Who offers such jobs?

A clear definition of what you want to do next benefits from discussing that with people you know and trust to add information or ideas. You may want to schedule some informational interviews to gather more information. Here too your network can assist you with ideas and contacts.

Step 2. Creating Your Marketing Materials

You already know that job search is a sales process for yourself. Like any sales process, you need marketing. Creating a solid resume, laden with keywords that describe your most relevant achievements for this next job is a critical first step. Take a look at past ClearedJobs.Net blog posts on resumes if you want more ideas or info.

You also need to analyze your current online image and update it to meet your new goals. If you do not have much of a positive, professional image online – create one. Over 70% of hiring managers and 90% of recruiters will look for you on social media. Even in the intel and cyber worlds, you can create an effective presence. If you have not been active on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook – pick one and learn how to use it effectively. Lots of great resources on using each well can be found with a quick search.

A job search business card is a smart addition. One side contains the classic info: name, contact info, social media links, type of work you seek. The other side can show several key achievements, relevant education or certifications, or even a great short quote from a past boss or award.

Step 3. A Job Search Plan

You know what you want to do. You have the marketing materials started. Now how are you going to get there? A job search plan should be set up so you can complete and track all the actions you need to take. Whether you do this on paper or electronically is your choice – just be sure you set it up in a way that works well for you.

This plan includes:

  • Networking (see step 4 below)
  • Identifying target employers (step 5)
  • Creating your career decisions matrix (step 6 )
  • Interview preparation (step 7)
  • Interview Follow-up (step 8)
  • Closing out your job search (step 9)

Most job search involve iterations of each step. You talk to people and change your resume or reconsider some target employers. You read about job search practices and modify yours. Or work with a career coach and identify some missing goals or better ways to sell yourself. As you make significant changes, you will want to notify people who have already helped you too. All this gets tracked in your job search notebook to help you move forward and to identify patterns which may signal problems.

If you are military in transition, you need far more time to go through this process. Attend all transition programs as early as possible. Take advantage of all the services available to you. Be sure you pay attention to financial planning and location selection as well as job search.

Step 4. Connecting with Others

You talk to people every day. In job search mode, you are going to make many of those conversations into more focused ones about some information or support you need. I recently saw a survey that indicated half of all job seekers did not even tell their spouses/partners they were looking for a new job. Some of that was the fear people feel when they have lost a job. But all of us need other people to make our search faster and smoother.

You need to:

  • contact people you already know, in all areas of your life, who may help
  • figure out who to ask what about your search
  • reach out to old connections you have from past jobs, school, community
  • learn how to find and make new connections

This means you need a plan to do this. Sitting down and trying to remember 400 names and contact info in one marathon session is not realistic for most of us. Suddenly trying to go to tons of seminars and meetings and events is silly without effective plans. Wasting time online doing all that is also less than optimal. Connecting about your job search is best done in an orderly, controlled fashion so you have time to follow-up and learn what you can offer in return. Pace yourself but plan to do it carefully and consistently.

Step 5. Identifying Target Employers

Applying for jobs just because you see a listing with the right title is such a waste of your time! Think about employers you already know of and list those you find interesting. Look at ClearedJobs’ employers for more ideas. If you know the locations you will consider, research which employers are there. Your local library and economic development agency can help. When you attend a job fair, check out employers you do not know in advance and then, if interesting, talk to them a bit at the event. Do the same at professional events you attend.

Once you have some possible employers, you want to research each to see if it offers the culture, mission, and values which match with yours. Start with what they say about themselves. Look at Glassdoor and Vault for employee reviews. Talk to people who work there or have worked there for insider info. Mistakes in choosing a company are a big part of failure at a job or a pattern of ever more frequent job changes. Both of those are mentally tough and bad for your career.

Step 6. Create a Career Decisions Matrix

Sounds formidable, yet this is actually a smart way to help you make the best decisions. This is a checklist of what is important to you in this next career step. It may include a variety of your values and personal or professional goals, such as contributing to the mission, work hours, or training/ development options. You might include minimum acceptable pay, location, travel and so on. You want to have no more than 8-10 items on the list for reality’s sake. Do this early in the process to help you focus on the right jobs and employers. Use it later as you evaluate specific employers. Then when you get offers, compare them to your decision matrix to help make the best decision.

Step 7. Interview Preparation

As you start making connections with employers, capture the who/what/research into your notebook. When you are contacted for a phone screen, video, or in-person interview, review what you know first. Update it by a search for new info, both on the company and the individuals you’ll be speaking with.

The second aspect of preparation is to review your own achievements as they relate to this job and employer. Pick out 5-6 of your successes and remind yourself of the details. Those will prepare you to answer a wide range of questions interviewers are most likely to ask.

Then prepare your own list of questions you need answered to help you evaluate the employer. Organize yourself, your clothing, transportation, and what you will carry in advance so nothing creates last minute stress.

Step 8. Interview Follow-Up

First and perhaps most critically – never stop your job search once you have a great interview or a promise of a job offer. Things happen in organizations. You may or may not get an acceptable offer in a timely manner. You may get a contingent offer. You should be in job search mode until you actually start a new job.

Within a day of any interviews, send a note to the person or people you talked to thanking them for their time and adding any useful information you did not get to in the interview. Reiterate your interest in the role and organization. Be brief – 2 to 3 short paragraphs is fine. If you are writing multiple people, remember to vary the contents – easier to do if you look at their role in the company and write to their interest. Most hiring managers see all the notes and exact duplicates makes you seem less interested and lazy. Email is generally fine for such notes. A handwritten follow-up is a nice touch for the hiring manager in some cases.

If you are not interested in the job, send an email saying so. No need for details, just a simple note is fine. This note goes to the recruiter and hiring manager, not everyone if you spoke with more than that. If you know someone who might be a better match, check to see if they might be interested and pass on their contact info if so. This shows what a professional you are and is especially useful if you have interest in other jobs with the same organization.

Additional follow-up by phone or email after the period in which they expected to contact you is fine. Keep it positive. Offer to provide additional info if they need it. You can do this 2-3 times, a week or more apart.

Step 9. Closing Out Your Job Search

Why yes, it is a smart move to actually plan how to do this. But first, do celebrate your success in the search! We both know how tough this process is, so enjoy the end.

Notify any recruiters and hiring managers you have been active with recently.

Thank everyone who helped with your search and update them on the new job within two weeks of starting it.

Update your social media profiles within two – four weeks of starting. This not only informs your remaining network but it looks good to your new employer.

Decide what information in your job search notebook is worth keeping and clean it up before filing for future use.

And this time, keep your networking going. Do a little each week and grow your skills while helping others. Both are good for your career – and for your next job search.

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 11:15 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation